When Lauren Met Clare

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This post, like many I write, has been a long time coming. Over a year ago I attended an afternoon tea/discussion arvo/performance hosted by the blissful Clare Bowditch and her Big Hearted Business (no really, that’s what it’s called). A big group of ladies and a smattering of gents (that’s the correct collective noun, is it not?) gathered at the Nexus Arts Centre. I had donned my favourite big blue coat, the one that makes me feel the snuggliest and sassiest and snazziest of all the coats. I was feeling the kind of uncomfortable apprehension that usually follows closely behind me when I attend events of an even vaguely networky nature. I had been ‘lost’ for about a year and was only just starting to find my feet. I was frustrated: intellectually, emotionally, creatively, socially. I was expecting a nice afternoon out with the best of all of my friends, my Mother, some pretty songs and a good cuppa. That’s exactly what I got, and then some.

Clare spoke eloquently and dreamily all at once. It was clear she was a woman with a soaring heart and a sharp mind to back it up. As she spoke about the need for creatives to hone their business brain and business folk to think more creatively, I furiously scrawled notes in my crisp new notebook. Some of my notes were quotes from Clare, but most were ideas that sparked off in my own mind from what she said. They weren’t all great ideas – in fact most of them were pretty terrible – but there were more than there had been in over a year and they were flowing freely. The creative floodgates were open; there was no going back.

Towards the end of Clare’s speech, she opened the discussion up to questions from the audience. I had so many, and they were swirling around so quickly that I could barely catch one. But I did, and I raised my hand tentatively. Eventually it was my turn, and I asked Clare the one question that had been underlying so many of my anxieties for so long: “Where do I start?” I’m a very expressive, creative type, but also a thinker. My head and my heart are often at odds and it was holding me back. I wanted to do it all, try it all, but couldn’t pin myself down to starting one particular thing. Clare beamed back at me and laughed a knowing laugh. She told me she could relate, and that she would answer me in song. This is that song.

You want an amazing life
But you can’t decide
You think you have to be fully formed already
Don’t you?
You want an amazing life
But you can’t decide
You do not have to be just one thing
But you have to start with something

I had to start with something. I knew that already, I think, but this was confirmation. This was me seeing through my fog and choosing to start. Rather than waiting for ‘inspiration’, I had to make conscious decisions to make little efforts in one direction. And so I did. I started jotting down phrases in notebooks with no real end goal, purely for the satisfaction of writing – creating something directly from the clash of heart and brain that was already going on. I started writing about my travels, and then when I came home I started this blog. The little words of encouragement from friends and strangers alike spurred me on, and soon I started submitted my writing elsewhere. I’ve had lots of love from the ladies who edited this year’s volume of On Dit in particular. They’ve published everything from an open letter to asylum seekers to cabaret reviews to a celebration of single lady-ness constructed entirely from Beyonce and Destiny’s Child lyrics. Because even as a writer, I know that I don’t have to be just one thing, but I had to start with something. And I started on that blustery winter’s day last year, with tears in the corners of my eyes and Clare’s words echoing in my mind. So really, I have Clare to thank, but also myself. Because those words were already there, they just needed to be spoken (or sung, in this case). I think that’s all we really need sometimes, don’t you?

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Ethel’s back, back again!

Last week I brought you a little intro to one of my fave cafes (and one that I should visit more often), E for Ethel. I interviewed owner-operators Amanda and Dan one afternoon way back in May and we chatted for so long that I decided to split my article about it in two. Now, I’m uber excited to bring you part two!

Pic from E for Ethel's placemaking story - click through to read!

Pic from E for Ethel’s placemaking story – click through to read!

Lauren (me): Have you found the Adelaide business community to be a supportive one? How have you found building partnerships and relationships with other local businesses?
Dan: Yeah, I’d say there’s a lot of businesses out there that are supportive of new businesses. A lot of the newer businesses are really supportive actually, so there’s definitely a community feel. And lots of people were able to share tips and hints and that was good. Knowing there’s support there is nice.
Amanda: And we had all that before we opened as well, you know. We would just go to cafes and do research and hang out and chat to owners and a lot of them are people we work with now in terms of suppliers because they were really open and willing to share and willing to sit down and just chat about stuff. There is definitely an older business mindset that isn’t as supportive to small businesses and businesses like ours – I think they think we’re just crazy hippies or something, but that’s okay. Definitely within our circle, we’re surrounded by businesses that are really supportive.
D: The council has been a great support and their networks have been really supportive, which is good.
A: Yeah, Adelaide City Council have been really good and especially through their Placemaking initiative. Melbourne Street‘s been identified as one of their pilot projects for the Placemaking program, so it means there are a lot of opportunities and there’s a lot of support out there and big conversations happening which is really cool. It just feels like there’s about to be a change down here and it’s a real chance for the community to make it their own and for businesses to start doing new stuff, so it feels good.

L: Great! So what sorts of areas do you see opportunities for growth and new businesses/ventures in Adelaide, or Melbourne Street in itself even?
A: Melbourne Street needs so much more!
D: Yeah, with Melbourne Street we feel like it has a lot of potential but it just needs a few key businesses.
A: It needs a newsagency – the one that was just on the corner out there has been closed for a couple of years now – and it needs a little local continental kinda deli.
D: Maybe a few cool bars.
Amanda: Yeah we’ve got all these big pubs, which have their place and they do their thing but yeah, some little cosy bars would complement them well. Hopefully some of the stuff going on in the CBD will start to branch out and happen up here too.
D: I think part of the Placemaking thing is determining what areas need and working towards that; actively seeking it out rather than just taking what comes.
A: They’re also helping in negotiations with landlords too which I think is really important for small business because quite often you don’t know what you’re signing up for or what you’re stepping into and sometimes that can work really well and sometimes not so much. But the council have been really supportive in that regard which is great.

L: What are some of your favourite local businesses?
D: Well, we love Sarah next door at Clarity massage. She’s become a friend of ours just through everyday interaction and seeing each other around. There’s a lot of people like that actually. Justine who was in here before, she’s from a hairdresser’s just out there.So yeah, it’s just grown from people who come in here and say hello. We like to offer support to those around us. We’ve been quite lucky I think. Most people we’ve worked with have been really supportive and have a more collaborative mindset.

L: What do you think is the importance/role of small business and keeping things local in a society dominated by big business, and a city that’s undergoing so much change in itself?
D: I think we need small business so much; it keeps things personal. I think you need small business to balance out all the big businesses. It’s a bit tricky these days because the big businesses are just getting so big that it’s hard to compete but there are always ways around that. Doing things slightly differently, offering something that people can’t get from bigger companies all helps. People still need connections. It’s nice to go into a place and know that the people are going to be nice and friendly and know who you are. I mean, you can get that in bigger businesses but it’s a lot harder. You’ve got a bit more freedom to move around within small business, to make things your own.

What a quote to finish on – thanks Dan! If you’d like to see E for Ethel‘s placemaking story about Melbourne Street, click here.

I just want to say thanks again to both Dan and Amanda for being so welcoming and open and sharing their story with me. If you know of a local business/person/initiative that you think I should focus an article on, please do leave a comment below and I’ll try to get onto it on the ASAP!

Until next time, lovelies,
L x